Journal of Neurophysiology

Effects of 5-hydroxytryptamine on the afterhyperpolarization, spike frequency regulation, and oscillatory membrane properties in lamprey spinal cord neurons

P. Wallen, J. T. Buchanan, S. Grillner, R. H. Hill, J. Christenson, T. Hokfelt


1. Local application of 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT) in the area in which a dense 5-HT plexus is located in the lamprey spinal cord leads to a marked depression of the late phase of the afterhyperpolarization (AHP) following the action potential. This effect was observed in motoneurons, premotor interneurons, and giant interneurons, whereas no effect was observed in the sensory dorsal cells and edge cells. 2. The late 5-HT sensitive phase of the AHP was increased in amplitude when calcium entry was enhanced during the prolongation of action potentials caused by tetraethylammonium (TEA). Conversely, a blockade of Ca2+ entry by manganese reduced the AHP amplitude, suggesting that a calcium-dependent current, most likely carried by potassium, underlies the late phase of the AHP in these cells, as is the case in many other types of neurons. 3. The late phase of the AHP could be depressed by 5-HT although no effects were exerted on either the resting input resistance or on the shape of the action potential in 54% of the cells. The membrane conductance increase associated with the late phase of the AHP was markedly attenuated by 5-HT application. 4. In voltage-clamp experiments, Na+ currents and most K+ currents were blocked by tetrodotoxin (TTX) and TEA, respectively. Under these conditions, voltage steps elicited a slow outward current, most likely representing a Ca2+-activated K+ current, which was depressed by 5-HT application. 5. 5-HT does not appear to reduce AHP amplitude by blocking the calcium entry occurring during the action potential. No evidence was obtained for an involvement of second messengers such as adenosine-3':5'-cyclic monophosphate (cAMP), guanosine-3':5'-cyclic monophosphate (cGMP), diacyglycerol, or arachidonic acid. The effect of 5-HT on the late AHP may be due to a direct action on the calcium-dependent potassium channels or on the intracellular handling of Ca2+ ions. 6. The amplitude reduction of the AHP has a profound influence on the spike frequency regulation of any given cell; the frequency of spikes evoked by a given excitatory stimulus is therefore markedly increased by application of 5-HT. 5-HT thus increases the "gain" of the input-output relation of interneurons and motoneurons responsible for generating the locomotor rhythm. In addition, 5-HT causes a prolongation of the depolarized plateau of the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor-induced membrane potential oscillations, as expected from the 5-HT-induced effects on the Ca2+-activated K+ channels that contribute to the repolarization.